Rule 735

Dear Deaf Client,

You know that Code of Professional Conduct forbids me offering personal opinions.


While we are waiting for your job interview at a clothing store I will hold your purse as you try on clothes, but I will not tell you which outfit looks better.

Rule 635

Interpreters observe many things they should probably never say out loud:

For example, working for the government appears to be the fine art of jamming four hours worth of work into an eight hour day.

Rule 630

Find your happy place.

Twice a month you team for a 2 1/2 hour “Department Meeting” that could be effectively replaced by a half page email each and every time.

Uncle Dale’s “You Probably Should Know”: Borderline.

There was a question posed on social media today by a woman who is Deaf. The very short version of the story involved being stopped by Customs and Border Patrol as they returned from Canada. During the encounter they requested that the Agent communicate in writing.

The Agent refused to do so.

The Agent gave verbal commands to the Deaf couple that they did not understand and as the encounter progressed the Agent became more agitated and the Deaf couple more fearful. The power differential is obvious and the turmoil nationally gave them reason to be anxious.

When this woman who is Deaf posted her story she relied heavily on references to Title II of the ADA. I suggested she may wish to frame this under Section 504 as well.

She asked me to explain why I suggested Section 504, as she understood it to be an education law.

I find that Rule 11 applies equally to the Deaf Community as well. This past week I presented a workshop at NAD/RID Region I that covers this very topic (just a side note. I gave an “hour and a half” version of a day long workshop where I physically walk attendees through federal laws like each is its own foreign country, with its own customs and language.

I will post a description of the workshop at the end.

I have submitted this workshop to several regional RID conferences but sadly no takers. NAD attendees and State Associations who have asked me to present it rave about it; its the clearest way to understand how the ADA, Section 504, IDEA and the ACA are similar and how each is markedly DIFFERENT. Anyway…)

I have been asked to post my answer to the question “why 504” on the Rules Blog so more people can see it.

Here is my answer:

“I can’t give you legal advice because I don’t have half enough facts. I am just giving a general idea of the differences and similarities between federal laws so you understand why you may want to look at Section 504 when framing the issue with these facts.

Customs/Border Patrol/ICE/Homeland Security are Federal Executive agencies which is one of the two entities 504 was designed to obligate (the other being any entity or business that accepts federal funds) so it seems 504 would be uniquely applicable.

I would still suggest including Title II in any discussion of a possible complaint you have with an attorney. Title II is good because it requires the agency to give “primary consideration” to the request made by the Deaf person (in this case writing). Understand that because Title II requires “primary consideration” when Section 504 overlaps with Title II, then Section 504 cannot be interpreted to provide less protection than Title II-so it would also require “Primary Consideration.”

However, Title II may have complications in enforcement. The more remote possible issue comes from a case called Tennessee v. Lane (and another case out of Georgia) that seem to indicate that there may be a requirement that you prove a Constitutional violation in order to enforce Title II. As this argument stems from an 11th Amendment conflict it may only be a problem if the State Police, not the Feds as it was according to the facts you laid out, were involved. But with the Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court, almost daily becoming more conservative and less responsive to the rights of individuals it is easy to imagine a Federal Agency making an argument for a more expansive application of the requirement or at least favoring the need for a Constitutional violation; from the brief description you gave I don’t see a Constitutional violation in your case.

Again, the courts have never said you MUST include a Constitutional violation, they have just said that they supported decisions in favor of the person with the disability “because” there was a Constitutional violation. One way or another it’s a possible extra fight you would not need.

The protections of Section 504 are equal in almost every respect to Title II in that Section 504 cannot be interpreted to provide less protection than Title II. In places where Section 504 is not equal to Title II there is an argument that it is better.

504 applies to all Executive Branch agencies and any entity accepting federal funds. As it must be interpreted in equity with (and sometimes better than) the ADA it covers the same ground as Title II but does not have the same possibility of needing to show a Constitutional violation (again the requirement for a Constitutional violation, if it exists at all, likely only applies to actions against States… but better safe than sorry as it were).

The second problem for a Title II action is one of wording and interpretation. Title II says that persons with disabilities are to be given equal access to the “programs, benefits and services” offered by government agencies.

Is the border patrol a benefit to you?

Is being searched a program?

Was searching you a service?

There is case law that goes both ways.

But 504 says:

(a) No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 705(20), shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service (emphasis added).

Applying the facts as you stated them you have a strong case that you were “subjected to discrimination” under the “activity” of Border Patrol conducting a search.

Again. This is not legal advice, just an observation. Talk to a lawyer in your area.

Hope that helps.

(My recent NAD workshop:

Federal Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are complex and confusing. It is vital for both deaf people and interpreters to understand the differences and similarities between, and even within, these laws. It is also vital to know the authorities through which each was passed in order to know which law applies to any specific situation, how a complaint is filed, what is and is not evidence of a violation and what remedies may be available if a violation is proven. There are so many differences it can be hard to keep it all straight! This workshop is presented as a “tour” of the laws as if each was its own country. “Uncle Dale Tours” lays each out like a map of a foreign land and the participants walk through each, see the sights and landmarks unique to each as well as their shared heritage. Each are issued a passport with certain knowledge points needed to earn a “visa” to the next law. It is equally fun and beneficial for the interpreter and community member. [0.125 PS])

Rule 585

One hour lecture or three day conference, no matter how amazing the rest of your work is, stumble once and all they will remember is that you “struggled.”

Rule 560

Dear New Interpreter:

Stop being afraid people will laugh at you and just enjoy people laughing near you.

Note from Uncle Dale: “You” and “You, Interpreted”

So let’s wrap up this week of connected Rules.

If you think about it there are always at least two “yous” that exist side by side.

There is the “you” that looks out from behind your eyes. This “you” knows your history and thus understands the reasons you do what you do. This you knows your fears and hopes and motivations.

Then there is the “you, interpreted.” This is the “you” that most people know. It is the “you” that is interpreted based solely on your actions, what you do, you with no access to your inner motivations.

You are always being interpreted. There is nothing you can do to prevent that.

But, if you know it then you have a little control over it. You can manipulate it (not like a Bond villain) like you already do unconsciously. Think about “you” at work, “you” at home, “you” at church. If we asked people from these different environments to describe “you” each “you” would be a little bit different. Not because you are being fake or putting on an act, but because the demands of each situation are a little bit different. Each demands a slightly different “you,” or at least a slightly different interpretation of “you.”

As interpreters we use this dichotomy all the time. We change our affect to match the clients’. We interpret not only the signs or spoken words but also the attitudes, emotions, desires, moods and intents of the hearing client to the Deaf client and the Deaf client to the hearing client. We, in essence, “interpret” the clients themselves for each other. We must, because their cultures are so divergent they could not possibly accurately interpret each other through mere observation.

There is another point to all of this discussion however.

I’m obnoxious.

I know this because all of my life people, family, friends, strangers, have felt free to tell me so. It really used to bother me as a kid. But then I started to think about “me” versus “me interpreted” and it changed my perspective.

I’m funny.

I’m interested in things.

I’m excited about things.

I’m likely to sing when the mood hits me.

I dance when I’m excited.

I communicate in stories, poems, and quotes from movies and television shows.

These are all parts of me that I really like. But if you put them all together it’s just too much for many, maybe even most, people. Put them all together you get “me, interpreted” as obnoxious.

It’s not an insult. It’s an accurate description.

Now, there are many situations where this works well. Ask any of my students they will tell you that at one time or another they just were not feeling it that day and would have skipped class, but didn’t; they wanted to see what I would do that day. Would Professor Uncle Dale dance on the desk or roll on the floor? It was worth their time to show up to find out. I keep their attention. If I can keep their attention I can teach them something. It works for me in the classroom.

Not so much if I’m on a committee.

I would be a terrible person to have on a committee. But I know that.

One time I was put on a committee at the Deaf Center and I looked just in time to see a person who was also asked to be on the committee roll her eyes. I followed her out to the hall and said, “I caught the eye-roll.”

She started to stammer out an apology but I stopped her.

“It’s fine,” I assured her, “I’m obnoxious.”

She told me she never said that.

“To my face,” I grinned, “but let’s be honest, you have said it!” I laughed, then quickly said, “look, I know me, I know I’m too much for most people a lot of the time. But I also know that won’t work for a committee, so I will tone it down. I will listen more and not say everything that pops into my head.”

She looked skeptical.

“But,” I continued, “I may get over-excited about a point we are discussing and forget myself. If I am taking over the conversation feel free to look at me and say, ‘you’re being obnoxious.’ It’s not an insult. It’s an accurate description.”

It’s kinda zen, I know. I did not get to this point overnight. It took a lot of self-reflection to understand that I like me and many of the things I like about me… bother other people. Mostly these things bother other people when they all come out of me at once. But that is not them disliking me. That is them being bothered by what I am doing. Being bothered by their interpretation of me. And that is absolutely ok.

Everybody does not have to like “me” all the time.

My brother called me a while ago and asked me if I realized my Dad was mad at me.

“Yep,” I answered (I think I had said something nice about Obama…)

He asked me what I was going to do about it.

“I don’t think I have to do something about it,” I replied.

He asked me if I was really just going to let Dad be mad at me?

“I’m not letting Dad do anything,” I corrected, “he can choose to be mad as long as he wants, or not to be mad. He is not mad at me, he is mad at something I said.”

My brother wanted me to unpack that for him.

“Am I still invited to thanksgiving dinner?”

My brother was fairly certain I was.

“If Poppi and Grammee take the grandkids to McDonalds will my kids be excluded?”

He assured me they would not. Poppi would not do that over a simple disagreement.

“Then,” I reasoned, “there is nothing fundamentally broken in our relationship. He is not mad at me, he is mad at something I said. Now, if I was not welcome at Thanksgiving or he cut my kids from his life that would not be worth a political comment to me and I would feel the need to address it. But as it stands? I know my father loves me, but Dad does not have to be happy with me all the time.

No one but me ever has to be happy with me.

I’d like it if my wife was happy with me most of the time. But other than that people will interpret what I say and do. Some will be happy. Some will not.”

That is zen.

I don’t get there all the time, but I try to visit as often as I can.

I hope this week’s Rules help someone get a little perspective on who they are.

You are enough. You don’t need anyone’s permission to think so. Not even mine.


Rule 543.4

If someone is angry at something you’ve done or at something you’ve said and it fundamentally alters your relationship, you should determine which is more important in the long run, what you said, or your relationship with this person, and then act accordingly.

Rule 543

No one has to be happy with you all the time.

No one even has to like you all the time.

Rule 532

Dear Concert Security,

If you need something, maybe talk to the interpreter who is NOT actively interpreting.

Just a thought.


Logic & Courtesy